Guantanamo Liquidation Picks Up Pace as Reports Swirl of Hagel's Recalcitrance on Releases
Reports have been swirling that disagreement over Gitmo releases was a hangup between the White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
And in the few days before Hagel's resignation was announced, Guantanamo detainees were shipped to Slovakia, Georgia and Saudi Arabia.
They follow the transfer of al-Qaeda recruiter Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda to Kuwait, an announcement made the day after Republicans won control of the Senate.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced the transfers to Eastern Europe.
Hashim Bin Ali Bin Amor Sliti is said to be a member of the Tunisian Combatant Group; he was captured in Pakistan in 2001. Three years later he was convicted in absentia for a foiled attack against U.S. military personnel in Belgium and for his role in assassinating Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. A 2008 Defense Department assessment found the Tunisian to be of medium intelligence value, but a high risk to the U.S. and allies.
Husayn Salim Muhammad Al-Mutari Yafai, a Yemeni, worked as an al-Qaeda facilitator stationed in Iran, according to the U.S. government. Here, he helped shuttle fighters into Afghanistan. A 2008 Defense Department assessment describes how Iranian intelligence would help get fake passports for the terrorists passing through. The U.S. got him from the Afghans in 2002.
The report deemed the Yemeni was both a high threat and of high intelligence value, particularly because of the information he possessed about Iran's activities.
Both went to Slovakia. "The United States coordinated with the Government of Slovakia to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures," the Pentagon said.
Georgia, meanwhile, got three Guantanamo detainees, all Yemeni.
Salah Mohammed Salih Al-Dhabi is a reported al-Qaeda member who trained in Afghanistan and "has demonstrated a commitment to jihad." Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim traveled with Osama bin Laden through Afghanistan; among his property held while in detention was one 7.62 mm bullet, according to a DoD report. Abdul Khaled Al-Baydani is listed as al-Qaeda fighter who battled U.S. forces in Tora Bora and "has expressed his encouragement for and desires to engage in further hostilities against U.S. forces."
"The United States is grateful to the Government of Georgia for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said.
On Saturday, another detainee transfer was announced.
Muhammed Murdi Issa Al-Zahrani, deemed a high risk to the U.S. before a Guantanamo review board changed its tune, was sent back to his home, Saudi Arabia. He is said to have helped plan Massoud's assassination and belonged to an al-Qaeda special ops force for which he received "extensive" training "including the use of explosives."
"Detainee is forthcoming in the details of his extremist intentions," says the 2008 DoD report that branded him a high threat and of high intelligence value.
Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said the detainee was going into the Mohammed Bin Naif Counseling and Care Center for rehab. Arab News reported after Al-Zahrani's release that the Saudis are trying to get nine more of their countrymen released from Gitmo.
Among the terrorist rehab center's objectives: "Spreading the concept of moderateness and rejecting immoderate way of thinking."
The government-run center aims "to be a world-class model illustrating how intellectual security can be achieved depending upon moderateness of Islam, in addition to reinforcing national loyalty."
The population of the Guantanamo detention facility is now 142.
The New York Times reported that "in the view of White House officials" Hagel "helped to thwart" Obama's Gitmo liquidation plans by rescinding approval to repatriate four Afghan detainees -- a decision that "annoyed" National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
Asked about the report Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said he wouldn't comment on specific policy decisions.